Reuben Harold MAGOR
Eyes brown, Hair dark, Complexion medium
Reuben’s devoted sister Olive
Olive Magor, aged in her mid-twenties and unmarried, was listed as Reuben’s next of kin. She and the rest of her family endured the anxiety and suspense of waiting for news of Reuben’s fate.
In August 1916, the army had advised Olive as next of kin that Reuben was reported missing on July 20th but they had no other details. Desperately seeking information, Olive and her older brother, Charles, sought help from both the Red Cross and the military authorities. Eventually, in December 1916, Red Cross sources advised that Reuben’s name appeared on a German death list but that investigations would continue as these lists were ‘often inaccurate’.
Above is the cable dated 15 December 1916 that was received by the South Australian Red Cross from their London Bureau. Below is the letter the SA bureau forwarded immediately to Reverend Frederick Binns who was acting for the Magor family. Note the handwritten file note on the bottom of the letter (initialled G.W.H.) that says: “Mr C Magor called at the Bureau 4/1/17 to show a letter dated 8/11/16 from Geneva Red Cross agency at Geneva saying that they had heard nothing.” The family were trying all avenues for information.
Accordingly, on 23 December 1916, just prior to Christmas, the following notice appeared in the local newspaper’s Roll of Honour – For King and Empire – together with a photo of Private R. H. Magor:
THE LATE PRIVATE R. H. MAGOR.
Miss O. Magor, of Margaret Street, Norwood, has been advised through the Red Cross Society that her brother, Private R. H. Magor, who was officially reported missing on July 20 last, has since died of wounds a prisoner of war in Germany. He was an active member for many years of the Clayton Church and Sunday-school, and had a large circle of friends, by whom he was loved and esteemed.
“…..this suspense is very cruel.”
So wrote, Olive, in January 1917 as she and her family desperately sought confirmation from military authorities about Reuben’s fate.
It appears that somehow a file was noted that Reuben, although on the death list, was a prisoner of war. The military authorities, lacking proof to the contrary, formally notified Olive on 15th February 1917 that Reuben was unofficially reported as being a prisoner of war. This was despite Olive providing authorities a copy in January of the Red Cross cable pictured earlier stating Reuben’s name appeared on the German death list. The authorities view was that the cable was not sufficiently definite for them to institute further enquiries.
As a result, Olive’s initial application for a pension was rejected (Reuben was still considered a prisoner of war). The family continued their communications with the Red Cross in the hope of receiving answers. In fact, there is a letter in the Red Cross records from 1917 where Mary, Reuben’s oldest sister, asks that an enclosed personal letter from her be passed on to Reuben as a prisoner of war. We can only imagine the anxiety and pain for the family as they endured the cruel uncertainty of not knowing.
On 16 May 1917, army investigations were eventually finalised to determine that Reuben had been killed in action on 20 July 1916. This was based on the 4 November 1916 German death list.
Olive was advised as next of kin on 19 May 1917, with the pensions section advised of this outcome within a week. Olive promptly wrote asking for a death certificate but unfortunately, the army did not get matters sorted until mid-August after Olive made a second request for Reuben’s certificate. Olive was then awarded a 20 shilling per fortnight pension, backdated only to 2 August 1917.
On 15 November 1917, Olive as next of kin was sent Reuben’s identity disc that had first been received from Germany in June 1917.
We know so little of Private Magor of the 32nd
Part of the great wave of reinforcements post Gallipoli, Reuben Magor left Australia in January 1916 with the 27th Battalion to join troops in Egypt. In April, he was taken on strength by the 32nd Battalion and arrived in France in June.
Nothing is known of Reuben’s part in fighting on the Western Front other than that he was reported missing on 20 July 1916. His battalion, the 32nd, were engaged in fierce fighting just three days after taking up position in the trenches at Fromelles. They suffered more than 700 casualties, essentially losing 90% of the battalion’s effective strength. Reuben was one of those hundreds of casualties.
The Magor family, pioneers of South Australia
Reuben’s grandparents, John Magor and Elizabeth Pascoe, came from Cornwall emigrating in 1838 shortly after their marriage. On settling in South Australia, the couple took up farming and had a family of six - two sons and four daughters. Some of John’s siblings also settled in South Australia taking up a range of farming, mining and business interests so that the Magor family became a prominent name in the region.
One of John and Elizabeth’s sons was James Magor (1843-1905), father of Private Reuben Magor. James was a farmer on the Yorke Peninsula, who married twice. He married Jane Ferme in 1865 and they had eight children. He and Jane parted through the courts but without divorce. James then had 10 children with Mary Elizabeth Smith.
Reuben was his father’s 17th child - and the only one who went to war. His parents died in 1903 and 1905 and his eldest sister, Mary, took over the care of the younger ones, especially the last three, Olive, Reuben and Marshall. Mary had married in 1900 and, in addition to her younger siblings, she had two children of her own.
After the War – the hardest part is yet to come
This notice from Reuben’s family and from his fellow serviceman of the 32nd Battalion was part of a multi-page tribute to The Heroes of the Great War in July 1918. Reuben was not forgotten.
In 1920, Olive made a claim for a war gratuity as next of kin. The following report on her claim gives poignant details of her brother’s will and also of her living arrangements and family support.
In 1921, Olive again heard from the military authorities. This time it was to advise that war medals would be issued for her brother but that, according to legislative rules, they would be issued to the most senior family member, not next of kin. Seniority rules, in those times, leaned heavily in favour of male family members. Accordingly, all Reuben’s medals and other memorial items were sent to her older brother, Charles, in November 1922.
Sadly, for modern-day members of the Magor family, they dared to hope for an identification – and a place of pilgrimage, but to this day, their prayers have not been answered. Private Reuben Magor still has no known grave.
Seeking DNA Donors
(Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
(Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1800 019 090).
If you are able, please contribute to the upkeep of this resource.
(Contact: email@example.com ).